Who can say no to a good soak after a long, stressful day at work? From Egyptian royals, who bathed in large, warm water pools mixed with oils and flowers, to Indian queens, whose long bathing rituals were admired, the healing properties of water have been celebrated for centuries.
Today medical professionals around the world use the curative powers of hydrotherapy to ease anxiety, sleep disturbances, relieve pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia and rejuvenate sore muscles and joints. While research regarding the various health benefits of hydrotherapy is still in its early stages, health experts are amazed by the findings.
Dr Murray Grossan, MD and practicing ENT Physician in Los Angeles, says, “Water has long been associated with purification and emotional release, which transcends into the feeling of relaxation and bliss.” Hydrotherapy isn’t just limited to hot showers, but includes tub soaks, Jacuzzi and natural hot water springs, too.
Busting Stress with Hydrotherapy
Water can be used to deliver temperature and pressure changes in the body, especially by alternating between cold and hot water. The changes in temperature are sensed by the body via the nerve endings, which cause the blood vessels to either contract or expand. This helps stimulate blood circulation and improves the metabolic functioning.
According to the book Hot Water & Healthy Living by JB Smith, professor of Kinesiology at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, during a stressful episode, the parasympathetic branch of our nervous system releases hormones to cope with the stress. Scientific evidence shows that hot water immersion can reduce the production of these stress hormones and help the body relax.
Health-O-Health: The Many Benefits Of Hydrotherapy
Hot water hydrotherapy is more popular than cold, as it can stimulate nerve reflexes that calm the lungs, heart, stomach and endocrine system. Increased blood flow in the body helps in the oxygenation of tissues, which helps injuries heal faster. It also removes toxins from tissues, which help prevent or ease injuries and increases tissue resilience. This can help in soothing the following:
- Infections & Injuries: By improved blood circulation, hydrotherapy enables the efficient working of the immune system. A hot soak also releases endorphins (natural painkillers).
- Respiratory Infections: Steam inhalation, especially with medicinal oils such as peppermint, opens up constricted nasal passages and clears the sinuses. It also expels mucus from the lungs.
- Inflammation & Arthritis: An increased blood flow can alleviate muscle and joint pain by relieving strain and inflammation.
- Sleep: Hot water can quieten the mind by relaxing both the nervous and endocrine system. This helps alleviate daily stress and anxiety and improves the quality of sleep.
- Headaches: Hot water hydrotherapy dilates the blood vessels, decreasing intracranial blood pressure. This helps relieve headaches, especially ones that are stress-induced.